25 May 2011

Summer reading list

from two summers ago, a lovely retreat to an urban beach
"The best summer reading I did in the past was in 1993 — I was working my butt off at a Chinese restaurant in Tuscaloosa, Ala., but I stole some time to read Ezra Pound, Emily Dickinson and William Faulkner on the greasy kitchen floor. Literature had never been tastier."
- Yunte Huang,
author of Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective
and His Rendezvous with American History
This great quote, from a compilation of authors' summer reading reflections, really encapsulates my attitude towards summer reading.  Although I don't always enjoy it with greasy Chinese food, the tastiness of words when you have the luxury of time to enjoy them is a sensation that I really miss during the hectic semester.

I haven't yet put together my own list of summer reads yet, although I imagine it may include some travel narratives, catching up on a peppering of blogs, Haitian Creole lessons, a beta read of a friend's new fantasy novel, maybe some foodie Michael Pollan or brainy Oliver Sachs... and/or countless selections from the many books on my shelf here at home that I've picked up over the years at library and sidewalk book sales but have yet to read.  (That last category will likely take me several summers to get through.  The plight of a loose-fingered reader who perpetually feels sorry for 'orphaned' books.)

What's on your summer reading list?

19 May 2011

Marine "highways"

Image: Bernd Blasius from Wired.com
For the first time, scientists have developed a map of the world's shipping routes through the use of GPS satellite systems.  Singapore ranks #4.  I wonder how many of these cargo ships end up stopping by Semakau landfill as a vacation spot...

Citation: “The complex network of global cargo ship movements” Pablo Kaluza, Andrea Kƶlzsch, Michael T. Gastner and Bernd Blasius, J. Royal Society: Interface

18 May 2011

[Tortoiseland] A return to the Galapagos


... or at least, virtually!  A glimpse of a marine research breakwater as the first stop in Puerto Ayora.  Lonesome George (bottom right) gets to escape from his pen to enjoy the view as well.

16 May 2011

My own boss?

Today we had our final review for studio, which means that I and the rest of my classmates are incredibly sleep deprived and were practically falling asleep over dinner..

but it also means it's our last studio ever.  !!

It also means from now on, we're our own boss - until a client comes along.  Am I ready to work in that capacity?  Some thoughts to ponder when the mind isn't so weary.

11 May 2011

Old school

Having a professor specify that we should follow the Chicago Manual of Style in making citations for our class paper spurred me to actually take a look ... and realize that I've been stuck in MLA format for all these years.  Considering that we learned about MLA as elementary school students, it makes me feel old school ... somehow.
Chicago style:
Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York: Penguin, 2006), 99–100.

MLA style:
Pollan, Michael.  The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.  New York: Penguin, 2006.  99-100.
Also, the fact that I'm talking about this on a blog means ... I've been too immersed in academia and really need summer break now.

08 May 2011

Cairo's garbage people

In my last thesis prep review, Nassar had suggested I look at precedents for locally-organized sorting methods.  He mentioned the Zabbaleen (= Garbage people, in Egyptian Arabic), a community that acts as Cairo's informal garbage collectors, since I'm looking at developing methods and techniques for sorting and processing rubble.

One intriguing fact about this community of about 70,000 Coptic Christians is that their municipal solid waste services are seen as one of the most efficient in the world in terms of recycling.  They basically go door to door to collect trash, haul it back to their homes on the backs of donkeys (and now in some small garbage trucks), sort it and sell every last bit of recyclable material to middlemen.  The organic waste is then eaten by pigs - I guess one method of "composting."  Their operations are done by hand.  Their entrepreneurial ways of living have been threatened by the government's hiring in 2003 of contracted garbage collection agencies to take care of the city's waste.

In my brief search, I came across 2 documentaries that bring the Zabbaleen to international attention :

Garbage Dreams

Marina of the Zabbaleen

There is a power in the medium of the documentary to bring to light critical issues and people that I (and others), otherwise, would have no idea about.  I have to do some further research to see how their methods might be helpful to inform my own work, but learning about these informal communities reminds me that institutions aren't always what bring about change or keep things running.

P.S. The Wiki page about this group of people is one of the most extensively footnoted of online articles I've seen.  Impressive!

Another note : I didn't mention this issue above, but in 2009 because of H1N1, the Egyptian government did a widespread collection of pigs - including those belonging to the Zabbaleen.  Since the pigs are the organic waste munchers...  the issue the government didn't think they would have to deal with was huge piles of smelly mess in their streets.  The NYTimes actually covered this garbage crisis, which sounds almost humorous until you remember this concerns a people's livelihood and a city's own ability to be clean and sanitary.

06 May 2011

MIT150 Flash dance, flash mob


My residents and other campus personnages strut their stuff in a "spontaneous" flash mob during last Saturday's MIT open house.  Too bad I wasn't around to see it!  I love seeing our serious administrators dragged into the mix as well :)

Alphabetic procrastination

via Sarah Wilson with micro pencil art by Dalton Ghetti
This looks like the result of an obsession or severe procrastination...  Now in the end of the semester, I would be threatened with the latter but after multiple distractions like getting sick and out of town trips, there's not even time for that.  Time, instead, to get better and buckle down...

04 May 2011

[FAST] SOFT Rockers, to scale

photo courtesy of Phil Seaton (fellow MArch)
Thanks to a Phil-induced studio break, Yushiro and I - along with the String Tunnel crew - became models for Sheila Kennedy's SOFT Rockers.  This latest FAST installation takes place on the grounds of the now-faded Icewall (which, we hope will return by this coming Saturday in floral form).

Loungers orient the rockers towards the sun so that the flexible photovoltaics attached on the rocker's outer hull can transform solar radiation into the energy needed to charge a cell phone, iPod, or even a laptop.  At night, the stored power then illuminates the interior with a cool aqua glow, making for a place to chill out in daytime or at night.

Phil's comment: "Emily, you're to scale!" (as in, you're small enough to look comfortable inside of these rockers)  See the website for more artfully-captured photos.